Li Na of China returns a shot to Elena Dementieva of Russia during a US Open fourth round match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Sunday in New York. Dementieva won 6-4, 6-1. [AFP]
Li Na made a run at matching the greatest Grand Slam tennis showing in Chinese history but Beijing Olympic champion Elena Dementieva made sure that bit of history would have to wait.
The Russian fifth seed defeated Li 6-4, 6-1 in a fourth-round match on Sunday at the US Open, denying the 26-year-old who finished fourth at the Olympics a quarterfinal berth, that would have been only the second by a Chinese woman.
"She put the ball so deep, I couldn't play my game. If I could have, I would have won," Li said.
After a season that has seen Li win at Gold Coast and just miss the medal podium in her home-nation Olympics, she was philosophical about failing to match her 2006 Wimbledon quarterfinal run at Flushing Meadows.
"I won three matches already," she said. "Not bad."
Dementieva roared to a 4-0 lead in the night opener at Arthur Ashe Stadium, converting both her early break opportunities, but Li battled back and had a chance to break back and reach 5-5 in the first set.
Li sent a backhand wide, however, and Dementieva pounced upon the mistake, claiming the next two points to blunt Li's moment and claim the set before rolling through the second set to win after just 61 minutes.
"I had a very easy start, 4-0, and I lost my concentration," Dementieva said. "I started playing not aggresive enough. She started pushing me harder.
"I felt like I started playing harder and doing the right things and she didn't have much fight in the end."
Li said she took more chances in her fightback but did not have enough to overcome the world No 5 at the finish.
"I was trying to come back in the first set from 4-0 down. I missed a lot," Li said. "I tried a lot but still, no chance. She played so good."
Chinese women have made strides in doubles as well, with Peng Shuai and Janette Husarova losing to the Chinese duo of Zheng Jie and Yan Zi in a third-round match.
"We're like sisters and best friends," Zheng said of her 18-year partnership with Yan. "We hope we can go more at US Open, into semifinals."
"Sometimes I can't see her but I know where she's going to hit," Yan said.
Peng said that while the world is seeing a great rise in Chinese tennis, the development ongoing in China is no different than in other nations but is only now beginning to pay great dividends.
"Some players have done really well and others not," she said. "It's not only China it's Russia, the States, Serbia - in every country you have good players. We all work very hard."
(AFP via China Daily September 2, 2008)